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Military Traditions

June 8, 2021 By R.A. Jones

Never Shoot Too Low

This is a Navy story, and I was Army. So please cut me some slack if I botch the jargon. About 10 years ago, some retired submariners in Benicia set up a Navy cruise whereby an A & E ship (that’s Ammunition and Explosives) would carry a few old, retired guys from San Diego to Mare Island. By the time they discovered they had an old soldier on the roster, I was already signed on. Operationally, that meant nothing; the captain was still captain. But this was the Navy and protocol mattered. In the Army they only got revved up and dug out the protocol book if a general from some non-airborne outfit showed up.

So, they assigned me an escort — a smartly turned-out gal whose regular duty was chaplain’s assistant. Well! She was also a first-class guide. She was surely a regular. She knew her ship and she knew the A & E business to include all the forklifts scurrying about. Also, she was pleasant company.

In those days, the Navy had female officers, too, but only on non-boomers, which is to say non-combat ships. So, this A & E had at least one female officer. On the night we pulled up anchor in San Diego, I stood wedged into a quiet corner of the bridge and watched the show. The duty officer (The OD?) was female. Assertive and clearly in command, she stood with binoculars around her neck and searched out ahead as we approached the bobbing lights of a fishing fleet. Then I heard her sing out what sounded like “steer two zero degrees to port.”

“Steer two zero degrees to port, aye, aye,” sang back the helmsperson, also female. She spun the big wheel left and the ship began to veer away from the fishing boats far out ahead.

“Well,” I thought, “This seems to work OK.”

The next morning, I met with my assigned escort again. She was wearing a big pistol, which seemed to drag on the deck, plus she had some sort of indecipherable brassard, which, in the Army, would have meant “duty NCO.” Whatever that meant in the Navy, she was it. We talked about that later.

I asked her what her career development plans were. Those were right on the mark for promotion. She was taking career enhancing non-resident courses. I was beginning to wish her real success in the Navy, and I told her so.

“Good for you! Never shoot too low,” was how I put it.

“I never shoot too low,” she retorted, thinking I was remarking on yesterday’s pistol, “When we go to the shooting range I aim right between the eyes!”

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